Interview with Andrew Wright

How did you come up with story behind Catacombs of the Undercity?
I wanted to write a classic, dungeon-crawl style adventure, but one with a bit more of a story behind it, rather than “kill-the-monster, take-its-stuff”. At this stage I’d read the rules and background for the setting of Orlandes and the Gamebook Adventures series. Given how big the city was, I figured there’d be plenty of scope for dungeon adventuring under the city. Also, the rules have a sense of progression to them, so I thought that it would be interesting to start off all alone in the dark with nothing, and work your upwards and outwards.

Did the story evolve much from your original concept?
Yes, in that I had to work out reasons as to why you’d be dumped in the catacombs, and by whom. Also, I thought that a long drawn-out dungeon crawl might get tedious, so I broke it up by adding the ‘Undercity’ – the city beneath the city – which allows for more freedom of movement and choice, and further bits beyond that. I’m giving nothing away here – download the adventure and read it for yourself!

What was the first gamebook you ever read?
Deathtrap Dungeon by Ian Livingstone, bought solely for the title (it had the word ‘dungeon’ in it!), and the brilliant and effective cover art by Iain McCaig showing a hideous Bloodbeast wallowing in a pool of acidic slime!

What is your favourite gamebook and why?
That’s a tricky one! Probably Heart of Ice by Dave Morris, which a lot of people claim is the best gamebook ever. I also like the Fabled Lands series, and Steve Jackson’s Sorcery! gamebooks. More recently, Jonathan Green’s new Fighting Fantasy gamebooks – Howl of the Werewolf, Stormslayer, and Night of the Necromancer – are all a lot of fun.

If you could choose one artist to illustrate one of your stories, alive or dead, who would it be?
What, just one? I had a lot of fun working with Pirkka Harvala on Catacombs of the Undercity – whenever I was a bit stuck his illustrations were always a good source of inspiration – so if I did another Gamebook Adventure it would be great if he created the artwork again. However, if pushed, I’d have to say it would be a close fight between Iain McCaig and Russ Nicholson. Both are amazing and represent two reasons why I started reading interactive fiction like Fighting Fantasy.

You’re involved a lot with the gamebook scene. What other resources do you contribute to?
I run two Yahoo! groups: Titan Rebuilding (http://games.groups.yahoo.com/group/titan_rebuilding/), which is a fan site that looks at the Fighting Fantasy world of Titan, and Fabled Lands, (http://games.groups.yahoo.com/group/fabled_lands/) which is a fan site for Dave Morris and Jamie Thomson’s Fabled Lands series. I also contribute to the web-based fanzine Fighting Fantazine, and Titannica the Fighting Fantasy wiki. I’ve entered Wayne Densley’s Windhammer Prize for gamebook fiction several times (though I’ve yet to win – curses!), and many of my old Fighting Fantasy amateur gamebooks are up at Andy Spruce’s excellent Fighting Fantasy Project website (http://www.ffproject.com/)  where you can play them online. I’ve also contributed to Dragon Warriors RPG system products like Friends or Foes and Ordo Draconis.

Lastly, I’ve just started a blog, Fantasy Gamebook (http://fantasygamebook.blogspot.com/), which is supposedly concerned with fantasy gamebooks, but actually talks about lots of other things as well. There’s no truth to the rumour that my better half is thinking of hiding my laptop!

Where do you see the future of gamebooks?
I’m not sure but it is going to be interesting. In print, we’ve got old series being re-released such as the Fabled Lands, and we’ve got brand new books, such as Michael Ward’s DestinyQuest: The Legion of Shadow, which I’ve got on order and am very much looking forward to reading and playing. With the advent of print-on-demand sites like Lulu, we’re also going to get more gamebook content that way, and also as PDF digital releases as well.

Of course, with devices like the iPad, the Kindle, and various Android tablets, we’re also going to have a bigger market for gamebook apps, and I think it’s here that we could really see some amazing things happen in the future. Most people enjoy reading and most people enjoy playing games. Gamebooks are an obvious synthesis of the two and the app marketplace has the potential to take interactive fiction in many exciting directions…

Thanks Andrew!

Gamebook Adventures 5: Catacombs of the Undercity available March 2011 on the App Store for iPhone,  iPod Touch and iPad!

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